Don't let rats take over the house
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s prison sentence is exactly the type of accountability Kenyan legislators blocked by rejecting the IEBC campaign finance caps and disclosure requirements. Tragically, while the world is moving towards establishing higher leadership and integrity standards, we seem stuck in reverse. Fortunately, two new bills by Hon Opiyo Wandayi may offer the National Assembly another chance to demonstrate it’s leadership.
A French court found Sarkozy guilty of spending more than double the Sh 2.8 billion ceiling legally permitted for his unsuccessful 2012 re-election campaign on Thursday. Sarkozy is a serial offender. This is his second custodial sentence this year. Another court found him guilty of bribing a judge in March. While he will not serve a day in jail, his conviction shatters six decades of political class comfort and impunity since the Fifth Republic was established in 1958. Despite several grand corruption scandals, there have been few successful convictions of senior politicians.
It is not just that the French presidential campaign financing cap is less than half the Sh 4.4 million set by the IEBC Election Campaign Financing Regulations or that France's Gross Domestic Product is more than twenty times larger than Kenya, it is that Kenyan legislators recently threw out the idea of ceilings altogether.
Emboldened, Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee Chair Hon. Jeremiah Kioni now plans to amend Election Campaign Financing Act to hide campaign donors and election expenditure from the public. If Kioni’s amendment seems to push future elections further towards the shadows, two bills by Public Accounts Committee Chairman Hon. Opiyo Wandayi offer us hope our elections can be more than an auction driven by dirty money.
Wandayi’s Leadership and Integrity Act (2012) amendment proposes that all state officers facing formal corruption or other serious criminal charges in a court of law must step aside for the duration of their cases. The Elections Act (2011) amendment seeks to disqualify all individuals formally charged in a court of law for similar crimes from contesting for a political seat or being nominated for the same.
It is tragic that the committee charged with overseeing constitutional implementation is currently doing so much damage to the constitution and chapter six. Legislators are advised to look beyond the narrow interests of the wealthy political elite. They must hold the electoral space open for all citizens and politicians who have not disgraced their offices. The two Wandayi bills could simultaneously be a game-changer for our national and county politics, economies, and public offices. Kenyans must lobby their representatives to vote in favour. These two bills are in the national interest.
Should they pass, we can stop the never-ending grand theft and the humiliation of county governors and cabinet secretaries shuttling between the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the High Court. We can also avoid the national indignity of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing trial, former South African President Jacob Zuma claiming illness to avoid jail-time or prosecutors investigating former US President Donald Trump for shady business dealings.
Leaders need not fear these amendments. They are not for leaders. Leaders and especially great leaders know when to step aside. These amendments are for those elected and appointed officials who don’t or won’t place the public interest before their personal interest. Election management committees across Jubilee, Orange Democratic Movement, the United Democratic Alliance and the other seventy or so registered political parties could also do the unexpected by emulating the ANC in South Africa and implement the spirit of the Wandayi bills in their structures. That too, would be leadership at this time.
Criminal suspects must seek acquittal before they aspire to govern or come before us for votes. This is the dividing line between a country or chaos and it must be applied to all, without fear or favour. The alternative, to quote Kiambu Governor James Nyoro, is to let the rats take over the house.
This opinion was also published in the Sunday Standard, 3 October 2021